The Swordlands

An Old Find Revisited

The weary adventurers rested that night in Augenbricht under the broad beams of Lord Braer’s great hall. Aengus however soon realised that he would not find sleep as easily as his companions. Thoughts of the Drow fleshwarpers went through his mind, and he found himself seeking distraction in the examination of certain objects recovered from Siegmund’s laboratory that he had not yet had a chance to investigate.

He sat quietly at the long table with a single candle for light, while his companions slept around him. Karl, who was snoring heavily, was closest, lying under the table itself. The gnome death dealer seemed capable of sleeping almost anywhere at any time, and Aengus was confident he would not awake unless his experiment went catastrophically wrong. Thunder was sitting inert and upright in a large, carved chair beside the embers of the fireplace, his battered armour aglow in the soft fire light. His father, Dian-Cecht had last been seen bedding down in the darkness of an eave-shadowed corner of the hall.

First, Aengus produced from a leather pouch an old preserved toe on a silver chain. This curious item appeared to be a human toe of unknown age. His examination revealed that the appendage possessed no form of regenerative magic, and Aengus was content that there was no indication that one day a fully formed being would grow from it. However he had detected a lingering aura of magic that was not related to the preservation of dead flesh, and it was causing the half-Drow, half-Eladrin alchemist some concern, moreso in that such a simple thing would give him so much difficulty to divine.

He left the apendage, separated from the chain to which it had been attached, suspended in a clear solution of reagents which, he hoped would in time reveal something further of the nature of it’s dweomer. Turning his attention to the old tin dog whistle he quickly saw that this small item had an almost imperceptibly small set of characters engraved around the mouthpiece. Further examination revealed that the whistle was indeed enchanted. The character set indicated that the magic was illusory in nature, and infact recalled to the alchemist variations on the written formula for Ghost Sound cantrips, a weak yet potentially very useful spell. The hand that inscribed these runes was fine indeed, and the runes themselves, under magnification, suggested a norse hand, a Swordlander or Beastlander, no doubt.

So engrossed in his studies was he that he hadn’t noticed his father sitting almost opposite, his dark skin barely managing to reflect the candle light, his long, white, braided hair visible from under his cowl. His expression was neutral, as was his way. Aengus was not sure how long his father had been sitting there.

“Did I wake you father?” whispered the young alchemist.

“Not at all Aengus,” replied the Drow master-swordsman in a hushed voice, “I was just curious… what manner of poison is that you are concocting? I have not seen it’s like.”

“I do not brew poisons, father, I do not care for them. That is a mixture of reagents with which I will trap traces of a magical dweomer.”

“How exciting!” whispered the Drow, “You are so much like your mother: determined, yet patient.”

Aengus set out his apparatus and conducted a series of arcane experiments in an attempt to deduce the precise nature of the magic in the tin dog whistle, but it was not until he noticed a subtle vibration in an old tuning fork that he had used when he was given to the practice of music that he realised that some form of sympathetic resonance was occurring. His father watched impassively all the while.

“Interesting.” murmured Aengus at length, “This whistle is emitting a single, constant, and extremely high pitched note, so high pitched infact that even the great wolfhounds that sleep on the floor around us are not disturbed by it.”

Dian-Cecht took up the whistle and turned it around in his long, slender fingers. “Someone or something with hearing keener still than a dog’s, however, may just be able to hear it, would you agree?”

Aengus nodded, “More than likely, although to learn the distance from which it would be audible I would require an assistant.”

His father shrugged slightly. “I am at your disposal.”

Aengus set the whistle upon a delicate brass tripod.

“Would you please take up your short-blade father?”

Without question, Dian-Cecht drew an exquisitely fashioned Drow short sword and placed it gently on the table infront of him. There was a grunt from below the table as Karl shifted in his sleep, before continuing to snore loudly.

With instructions to lightly tap the whistle with the tip of his knife at intervals of a minute, the alchemist left the swordsman at the table and walked over to the doors at the front of the great hall. There, he stood the tuning fork on top of an upturned chalice and observed keenly. As the Drow swordsman gently struck the whistle with the flat of his blade, the chalice gave out a soft, almost imperceptable note, as it acted as a sound chamber for the tuning fork.

Aengus then stood up and, utensils in hand, and stepped out through the heavy oaken doors and into the freezing night air. His father watched quietly as Aengus walked outside, his Drow eyes gleaming in the near-darkenss. Aengus walked a short way, crunching across the frosted earth, and set down his equipment as before. A moment later, the chalice sung again. The half-Drow proceeded to walk down the hill in the dead of night, amongst the pointed houses of Augenbricht, pausing each minute to set up his experiment. Each time he did so the chalice gave off a soft note.

Soon Aengus had reached the town square. Crouching down next to the sundered statue of Lady Snowshoes, Aengus heard the chalice return a similar note. The alchemist looked around, staring intently into the night. Nothing moved. Not a sound was to be heard. The Cycle of The Spear was as still and as silent as death itself, except that above, Aengus noticed a silent flurry of shooting stars in the glittering heavens. A few moments later the chalice sang again.

Half an hour later Aengus returned and closed the doors behind him. He shook off the frost from his robes and sat back down on the bench opposite his father, rubbing his hands together for warmth.

“May I cease striking the whistle now?” ventured the Drow quietly.

“My thanks for your assistance. I am certain that, if one were able to detect such a signal at all, it could be noticed from many miles away.”

“That’s disconcerting.” offered the swordsman, “And to think that you came here to help me with my quest. I find myself altogether intrigued, and I do not intrigue easily.”

Aengus thought for a moment. “I intend to stay till the end, father. You should know that.”

“Of course you do my boy, of course you do. After all, how often is one able to witness the end of the world?” replied the Drow, without a visible reaction on his delicate features.

“Once should do to begin with.” whispered Aengus. Dian-Cecht tilted his head in the direction of Aengus’ previous experiment.

Turning back to the phial in which he had left the toe, Aengus noticed immediately that the liquid had turned a pale lilac colour, which of course could indicate only one thing: luck magic, faint but present nonetheless. However, good luck or bad, his divinations could reveal nothing further.

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